"Why Would I Spy On My Team?"
By Joe Issid
Not that I actually would.
Without sounding like a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, I encourage all employees to be careful about what they say and do when at work – especially in the digital sphere.
As someone who has run his own business and managed large teams within various organizations, I have seen how companies spy on their employees and the complex reasons behind these decisions. While I personally do not engage in these practices in general, they are very much a part of modern work culture and built into the fabric of some companies. So, if you’re wondering why a company would choose to enter into such an enterprise, here are some explanations I have come across over the years :
Without trying to sound lawyerly, unpleasant situations arise that may compel an organization to perform a form of investigation on a particular person or process. For example, I once worked for a company that suffered a serious security breach and our insurance company mandated a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the breach. In such a scenario, all employee workstations were audited, as well as all physical work spaces. Ultimately, the offending individual was uncovered and disciplined. While this proved to be an effective resolution, I believe that entering into an employee’s “private” work space should only be considered where there is reasonable probable cause.
What if your employer was able to see all your online job searches and determined that you were actively looking to leave? If I were such an employer, my instinct would be to better understand why you were feeling that way and to try and find a solution that would increase your desire to stay. In fact, many employers actively monitor their employee’s online activities for such reasons. While you may naturally think that you will get in trouble for job searching while at work, a good employer would not punish you for it. In fact, you may even be rewarded.
Employers who monitor their employee’s social media activities have certainly caused their fair share of controversy, some of which have led to protracted legal battles. While I am not advocating for or against the practice, I can see why some employers feel it is important to see what their employees are saying about them publicly. At the end of the day, if you are publishing your opinions to public spaces, it is fair to expect your employer to see them. Again, it is always in your best interest to ensure that your professional life remains unaffiliated with your professional one.
It may sound somewhat circular to believe that an employer is looking to build loyalty by spying on their employees, but it is something that is frequently done in certain industries. For example, to assume a senior role within an organization, some employees may be put through a vetting process to ensure that no conflicts or compromises exist. Being able to pass through this process without raising any red flags will presume that you will be loyal and trustworthy over the long term. Ultimately, it is well-assumed that anyone looking to take on such a high profile job has had their background, performance and behaviors well analyzed by the employer.
Believe it or not, employees work harder, break fewer rules and generally perform better if they believe that they are being spied on. Most people do not like to get in trouble or be perceived as not performing well on the job. To wit, installing security cameras or web logging software to monitor staff has shown to have dramatic improvements in overall team performance. While it may be outwardly unsettling to feel like you are being watched, you may subconsciously become better at your job.